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Super PAC changes anti-Shaheen ads after complaint

  • Article by: PHILIP ELLIOTT
  • Associated Press
  • August 27, 2014 - 8:30 PM

WASHINGTON — A conservative super PAC was forced Wednesday to edit a negative ad against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen after the New Hampshire Democrat's attorneys flagged inaccuracies in the spot with the broadcaster.

In letters to television station managers in New Hampshire and across the border in Massachusetts, Shaheen's lawyers sought to stop the broadcast of the ads while Ending Spending Action Fund's team fought to keep them on the air. The two sides offered dueling accounting for the lawmaker's wealth that is at the center of the new ads' message.

The point of debate is Ending Spending's claim that "Shaheen's wealth has surged while in public office."

Shaheen's financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate show her net worth dropping by at least $562,000 and perhaps as much as $1 million.

Ending Spending's lawyers said that Shaheen shouldn't be allowed to count debts, such as 10 mortgages included in her 2013 financial disclosure. Only her assets should be considered, no matter how much they are mortgaged.

The competing accounting of Shaheen's finances led Boston's NBC affiliate, WHDH, to order Ending Spending to change the 30- and 60-second ads and to tell Shaheen's campaign the original ads were coming down.

Boston's media market covers the population-heavy southern tier of New Hampshire and campaigns often buy airtime on those stations.

"Scott Brown's Wall Street buddies put up an outrageous attack ad against Jeanne Shaheen that's being pulled off the air because it's dead wrong and completely false," Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich said.

Ending Spending Action Fund re-cut the ad, which also blames Shaheen for higher gas prices and more taxes, and said it planned to air the new version more frequently.

"That station has requested an additional citation be added to the on-screen text, which we will gladly do," Ending Spending President Brian Baker said. "It's clear that the accurate information contained in the Ending Spending Action Fund ad struck a nerve with Sen. Shaheen."

Shaheen's attorneys complained to the station about the ads' suggestions that Shaheen amassed great wealth as a result of being in the Senate. "Ending Spending's ads are false, misleading and deceptive and we demand that you stop broadcasting them," Shaheen's lawyers wrote.

Ending Spending's attorneys wrote other stations to explain their version of Shaheen's wealth, saying she saw her assets increase anywhere between $318,000 and $647,000 between 2008 and 2013. Senate disclosure forms allow figures to be reported in broad ranges, and Shaheen is worth between $3.7 million and $7.8 million.

The ad spat comes as a poll shows the race between Shaheen and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown essentially tied. Shaheen for months had polled stronger than Brown, who moved to New Hampshire and has faced criticism that he is a carpet-bagger. But Shaheen's lead has essentially evaporated in public and party-funded polling.

Spending in New Hampshire already has topped $9 million and this week brought hundreds of thousands more.

New Hampshire's race is one of the handful that will decide which party controls the Senate for the final two years of President Barack Obama's term. If Republicans show a net gain of six seats, they will take control of the Senate for the first time since 2006's elections.

A pro-Brown super PAC, Independent Leadership for New Hampshire, earlier this week aired its first television ads. Brown's campaign also began running ads featuring Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a fellow New Hampshire Republican.

Shaheen's campaign on Wednesday launched its first negative ads against Brown, citing his votes for subsidies for energy companies.

© 2014 Star Tribune